Police involvement in 999 response to mental health incidents to be reduced

Police involvement in 999 responses to mental health incidents will be reduced under a new arrangement between emergency services.

Under the National Partnership Agreement, people experiencing mental health issues will be attended to by medical professionals as the priority, rather than the police as default.

The new agreement is based on a model developed by Humberside Police, called Right Care, Right Person, and the nationwide rollout will be coordinated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

When His Majesty’s Policing Inspectorate evaluated the Humberside Police model they found it saved the force 1,100 hours per month – though officers will still attend such incidents where they are needed.

This comes after chief constables raised worries about the amount of resources being diverted away from police work to respond to mental health emergencies.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she was “genuinely concerned” about the points they raised, and said the new agreement will “rectify what has clearly become a systemic problem” in policing.

She said: “From day one it’s been my mission to reduce unnecessary burdens keeping police from their primary focus – fighting crime and keeping people safe.

“I was genuinely concerned to hear from policing about the amount of resource required to respond to mental health emergencies.

“It’s not fair on the officers, the public or on those in need of professional healthcare.

“Together with the Department of Health and Social Care, policing and healthcare providers, we are bringing forward a package of measures to help rectify what has clearly become a systemic problem.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for mental health and policing, Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Bacon (pictured), said 999 incidents involving “mental health crises and vulnerabilities” have had “a significant impact” on resources.

She added: “A national approach to ‘Right Care, Right Person’ will help forces reduce the number of deployments in respect of specific types of calls relating to mental health and concern for welfare, and help police staff in control rooms focus, from the outset, on getting the right person and agency, with the right skills, training, and experience to respond to the incident.

“We will work closely with key partners to ensure the right support and safeguarding measures are in place for people in the community through the National Partnership Agreement.”

The agreement follows a £150 million investment in spaces for mental health patients in the NHS outside of A&E, which was announced last month.

It will be spent on some 90 new mental health ambulances designed to take specialist staff directly to patients, and improvements to NHS 111 and crisis phone lines.

Lisa Townsend, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for mental health, said she welcomes the new agreement.

Speaking about the response to mental health incidents, Ms Townsend said: “This is a crucial issue for policing and a longer-term solution has been desperately needed for some time.

“Having met with the Policing Minister to raise PCCs’ concerns, I welcome the Government’s commitment to work with policing and health to improve the situation and agree this new national partnership.

“We know this issue cannot be resolved overnight but hopefully this is a big step in the right direction.

“I and my PCC colleagues will work tirelessly alongside police chiefs and local health partners to help realise this much-needed change in direction, helping policing get back to its core duties and ensuring vulnerable people get the appropriate help and care they deserve.”

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